Traveling Dad Feels the Guilt

If I tell my 10-year-old daughter she cannot do something, her dad will give her permission to do whatever it was that I just said she could not. I think he gives into her "demands" because he frequently travels and feels guilty. What can I do to get him back on track without causing bad feelings all the way around?

We had this problem with our seven-year-old triplets. Their dad was out of town with his job for the first three years of their life and now again for the past two years. He's gone from home four days a week and when he's in town, he stays at the office getting caught up, including during the weekends. He feels so guilty about missing their school plays, field trips, soccer games, etc., that he finds it very difficult to say no about anything. I asked him to at least tell the kids to talk to me first because I had their schedules. When the problem continued, I asked him exactly what they were telling him to make him feel so compelled to say yes. He said that they tell him that I've already agreed but to also check with him. From that point on, I asked him to always confirm with me before telling them that they can do something. Within three weeks, they began to understand the process. It took a little patience on our part, but it worked. - V. J. in Tucson, AZ

From Jodie: Kids can get pretty creative when it comes to pitting one parent against the other to get what they want. Despite their young age, most 10-year-olds have already become unusually good at manipulating their parents, grandparents and other relatives, especially if everyone's schedule is chaotic. This holds even truer if one of them travels and/or works out of town. Tell your husband that you know how much he loves his daughter but you suspect that he also feels guilty for being gone so much and this is why he always gives into her requests. Explain that continually saying yes to everything kids want is not a good habit to fall into and it will only cause problems the older that they get. Basically, it's teaching them how to stretch the truth to get what they want. As they become teenagers, they'll be armed with enough emotional ammunition to know what to say when, and to whom, to get the "right" response. Let him know that his job is what it is and that it's not a bad thing, but merely another part of your life together; he doesn't have to feel guilty about it. Ask for suggestions on how to best handle the current dilemma. Listen carefully and then also throw out the following idea to get his thoughts: tell him to call you into the room, or on the phone if you're not home, to verify everything that she has said before saying yes. She will soon learn the new rule that permission will not be given for anything unless both of you agree. Respect and peace will hopefully soon return in your home.


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